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Impressions: Verve Jazz Sides

4.9 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Audio CD, April 18, 1995
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Guitarist Wes Montgomery grew up in a musical family with brothers Monk (bass) and Buddy (piano/vibes). All three musicians were self-taught, and recorded together as the Montgomery Brothers, but Wes would go on to the greatest success. The guitarist had crossed over to pop by the time of his death, after a heart attack, at age 43. The Verve material collects later Montgomery sides, one disc of OK studio recordings with sidemen including Jerome Richardson, Phil Woods, and Danny Bank on various wind instruments, and Donald Byrd, Ernie Royal, Snooky Young, and Joe Newman on trumpets. The second CD is the keeper, the complete Smokin' at the Half Note sessions with the Wynton Kelly trio. --John Swenson
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 18, 1995)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Polygram Records
  • ASIN: B0000046TP
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,403 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
Despite Wes's extraordinary abilities, his recordings are somewhat inconsistent; in particular, his later albums were more pop than jazz, and largely obscured his genius. Wes recorded both jazz and pop records for Verve, and on this collection they wisely acknowledge the difference, assembling his best jazz work for them on on extremely well thought-out and organized collection, the best one I know of; this is the one I make all my students get. If you like this and want more, work backwards to his Riverside titles, such as Introducing Wes Montgomery, The Incredible Jazz Guitar of... (anything with organ on it smokes) and avoid the recordings with pop tunes and slick orchestras (later Verve, anything on A&M).
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Format: Audio CD
First, I must say that this 2cd set is the absolute best introduction for anyone interested in traditional jazz guitar itself or Wes Montgomery, one of its greatest practitioners.
This 2cd set contains all of the album "Smokin' at the Half Note" (on disc #2) which is, in my opinion, the best live Wes Montgomery album. It also contains bonus tracks from that session, which are NOT available on the single cd, or anywhere else to my knowledge.
In addition, the first disc contains a varied sampling of Wes Montgomery's studio recordings on the Verve label. Some people contend that many of Wes' studio recordings went somewhat commercial during his Verve period and are therfore not quite as good as his earlier recordings.
I agree.
But, his studio recordings, even in this period, are not bad at all, and in fact, the ones offered in this set are quite good. The first disc offers a sampling of small group recordings and big band recordings, all of which are very good and offer some of the best from this period.
I belive Wes' earlier Riverside recordings are his best "straight ahead" jazz recordings overall, but the selections on the first disc of this set are really the best of his later studio recordings. They're definitely worth a listen, and I really feel it offers the very best selection of Wes' Verve studio recordings.
But, again, the jewel of this set is disc #2. On this disc you get ALL of Wes' best live album "Smokin' at the Half Note", AND you get quite a few great bonus cuts from this live session. Particularly great is the short but smokin' version of John Coltrane's "Impressions", not available on other releases.
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Format: Audio CD
Wes Montgomery had one very good reason for letting Verve move him toward a more orchestral pop delivery of jazz beginning in 1964: he had a sizeable family to feed and, like it or not, pure jazz just didn't pay the bills any longer. That didn't prevent him from producing some incandescent music regardless, if only because his playing style was so complete, so personal, and so incapable of shunting emotion to the side, that he transcended the sometimes syrupy arrangements through which he had to navigate. In the end, he really didn't compromise too much of his soul, and if you consider just how sappy most of what came to be called MOR (middle of the road) in the mid-1960s had already been, Montgomery's odd union of MOR and jazz was really a refreshment.
Still, Verve didn't imprison him entirely - Montgomery got plentiful chances to blow, and blow he could and did. And here's the prime samplings of those blowings in the Verve/A & M years in one very powerful introduction. (You'll be tempted, once you've been hit between the eyes by the bristling lyricism with which he attacks "Caravan," to seek out the album from whence it came, the broodingly joyous "Movin' Wes".) The real treat: the complete recordings from the dates with the Wynton Kelly Trio that produced the remarkable "Smokin' At The Half Note". Montgomery and the Kelly unit play as though they were made for each other, the rhythm section almost galloping their way through the sets as Montgomery and Kelly play like a pair of long-lost soul brothers. If you're new to Wes Montgomery, here is a terrific place to begin. And once you do, don't be afraid to spend the money you're likely to spend on getting your hands on every one of his regulation albums. When Ralph J.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
For a long time I've felt that Wes' "Full House" rather than "Smokin at the Half Note" was his best album because it was a complete live performance of some of his very best playing. "Smokin at the Half Note", as spectacular as it is, always seemed piecemeal to me - only two songs out of five were live performances. Subsequently released was "Willow Weep For Me" which has the rest of the Half Note performances but with overdubbed horns and poor quality of recording. Next came the remastered 'Smokin' which was certainly a great improvement with several more live show performances but the track order seemed odd to me: Two live tunes, three studio, and the rest live. Also, missing from this offering is the live version of "Four On Six" which, in my personal opinion, is the best guitar improvisational solo ever recorded. How the guitarist can come up with chorus after chorus of original ideas for so long is beyond me - simply genius. Back to the point, now that I have Impressions: Verse Jazz Sides I feel that at long last I finally have the one version that I've been looking for, the way this album should have been released in the first place. Now I can say that this, without question, is Wes' best album, indeed, the best live jazz guitar album of all time!
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